The National Union of Journalists is seeking assurances that Trinity Mirror "has no intention of dumbing down its output".
Yesterday, the publisher unveiled plans for regional journalists across the country to have individual and team audience growth targets as part of its Connected Newsroom scheme. Up to eight jobs are at risk of redundancy as a result of the scheme, which is being rolled out from the Midlands.
In a statement this afternoon, the NUJ "expressed grave concern about the future of quality journalism at Trinity Mirror", citing job losses and "'click' targets". The union said it was "reaching out to politicans and the local community to raise the alarm about the cuts".
Martin Shipton, chair of the NUJ’s Trinity Mirror group chapel, said: “Once again Trinity Mirror has announced a development of its newsroom model in tandem with job losses. The group’s strategy for audience growth is based on greatly increasing website clicks – yet reducing the number of writers will make that more difficult to achieve.
"We are extremely concerned by the potential implications of setting individual click targets for journalists. At its worst, this could encourage reporters to sensationalise stories, to trivialise the news and make news out of trivia, and to give up on more challenging, public interest journalism that takes time to research and deliver.
"We want firm assurances from Trinity Mirror, backed up by a detailed written agreement, that the group remains committed to quality journalism and that it has no intention of dumbing down its output. The trust built up with communities over many years will evaporate quickly if we abandon their concerns in favour of generic, celebrity-focused ‘click bait’."
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: "This jargon laden announcement has set alarm bells jangling once again over the plans for more individual 'audience goals' for journalists which will make sure chillingly, that they are 'working on the right stories at the right pace'. Future news content will be seemingly be decided on the basis of a popularity contest, but the 'brand values' cited are undefined. There needs to be proper tough analysis of these proposals before any steps are taken to roll this out."